Lambda Canada | Nuclear Medicine
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Nuclear Medicine

  |   Medical Imaging   |   No comment


Nuclear medicine is a medical imaging technique used for the diagnosis of various types of diseases like cancers, diseases involving gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, endocrine, neurological systems and other abnormalities within the body. It is very safe and painless technique, in which a small amount of radioactive material is injected in to blood vessels. They can be inhaled or swallowed also.


Nuclear medicine provides important medical information which may be unavailable or can be obtained through surgery, or costly and invasive lab tests. This procedure is able to identify abnormal condition very early in the disease progression. Diagnostic tests can identify these problems after taking long time. This leads to treatment of disease sooner.


Nuclear medicine is prepared by attaching medicine with a small quantity of radioactive material. This compound is called radiopharmaceutical. Different types of radiopharmaceuticals can be used for different parts of the body depending upon the diseased conditions.


Nuclear medicines can be introduced in a small amount inside the body. The medicinal part of this product is designed in such a way that they accumulate in the specific region or part of the body that needs to be examined.


Radiation like gamma rays are emitted by the radioactive part of the radiopharmaceutical and is detected by a special camera called the gamma camera, which allows the specialist to see inside the body and detect if the drug has reached the correct spot in the body as per requirement.


Different kinds of diseases can be diagnosed using nuclear medicine. This technique helps detect the abnormal lesions present deep in the body without any external surgeries. It also determines whether the organs are functioning normal or not. A few examples include-


  1. Whether heart can pump blood adequately.
  2. Whether the brain receives adequate blood supply.
  3. Whether brain cells are functioning normally or not.
  4. Whether kidneys are functioning properly.
  5. Whether stomach is emptying properly.


Nuclear medicine is also helpful in locating the smallest bone fracture before an x-ray can detect it. It also helps in detecting other diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. It assesses the damage that is caused to the heart after a heart attack and also tells experts whether the transplanted organs are functioning well or not. The patient’s blood volume and function, vitamin absorption and bone density can also be determined using nuclear medicine. In cancer studies, response to the drugs can also be determined.


In nuclear medicine, radiation is not generated through external sources but it is generated from within the body, hence it is also called endoradiology. Additionally, nuclear medicine is also called physiological imaging modality because its emphasis is on function and not on imaging anatomy. Some common modalities in nuclear medicine are Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography or SPECT and Positron Emission Tomography or PET scans.


Gama camera detects the gamma rays emitted by the radioactive part of the radiopharmaceutical. Nuclear medicine physician can see inside the body with the help of this type of camera. In this case gamma camera is placed few inches over the patient’s body. After few minutes pictures are taken. With the help of these Images, nuclear medicine expert makes the diagnosis of the disease.


The organ function is used to determine the cause of a medical problem. Positron Emission Tomography Scan (PET scan), a type of nuclear medicine imaging, can determine the sugar present in the body and localize many types of diseases. Thus, body’s own functions are used to determine the disease status. A lot of fluids should be taken and urinated as much as possible after the nuclear medicine procedures. This will help in clearing the remaining radioactivity out of the body.


The US Food and Drug Administration approves these radiopharmaceuticals before they can be tested on the patients ensuring that it is safe to be used. It is the oldest method as compared to CT, MRI and ultrasound and is being used on a daily basis in all major countries in the world now. In patients, it was used around 60 years ago. Researchers in the field of nuclear medicines are coming up with new advancements as it is becoming very popular around the world.

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